Category Archives: Album Review

155. JAKE QUINCEY AND THE BIG RAD WOLF “Nothing To Loose… But The Blues” EP (2017)

(Image: Jake Quincey)

Recently my friend, guitarist Vern Waldie suggested that I listen to Jake Quincey And The Big Rad Wolf. They are a Blues-Rock outfit based in Canterbury, Kent (a hot-bed of earlier innovative bands); and they have just released their debut 5-track EP Nothing To Loose… But The Blues. Jake contacted me and sent me a link to the sounds on the band’s website, for review…

My first impression of this EP was that it is obviously influenced by the great luminaries who pioneered the transition of Blues into Psychedelic/Prog-Rock almost half a century ago. And this would be fair enough in its own right, of course. Yet having had a few listens, I think this first impression was a disservice to the band, because they seem to be pioneering themselves, in a kind of independent latter day parallel Blues-Rock evolution; demonstrating that there is yet more that can be achieved, given some imagination.

The music still has a Bluesy core of course, yet the parent genre has been transformed into a Psychedelic/Prog-Rock adventure; breaking new ground – and doing so in a way that left me wondering where each track would lead, because I couldn’t guess. Each track gets into your head and stays there; and that is why I like this EP; its familiar, yet different.

Quincey makes himself very useful, with some tasty guitar work – reminiscent of Hendrix and others; yet demonstrating a personally unique style. His vocals too are remarkably singular, yet reminding me a lot of Morrison. John Golding on drums is also working outside the box, in the same way that Baker and Mitchell did all those years ago.

Having only worked from a download, I haven’t seen the CD sleeve/case so I can’t make any comment on that other than to say that the cover image is a good one – simple but effective. If you are fan the late 60s Blues-Rock pioneers then I think you’ll  like this EP too.  It is available from the band’s website. PTMQ

153. BLUES ENGINE “Tracks” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Image: Blues Engine)

I was contacted by Alex Cooray, guitarist with Blues Engine recently, asking if I’d like a copy of the band’s new album (their second) Tracks for review. Never one to refuse some new Blues, I of course accepted his kind offer.

Blues Engine are a London-based four-piece consisting of Alex Cooray (guitar); Katya Chernyakova (vocals); Alexander Liutai (bass); and Hamish Birchall (drums)… and impressive they are too. Some other good musos were recruited as necessary for the recording as well.

They say Blues is formulaic – and it can be – but just recently I have heard some very innovative new albums from the genre, showing what can be achieved with some innovation. (See my reviews #141 and #142). Tracks is such an album too – not afraid to push boundaries yet keeping a firm footing within expected norms. That’s something I like and admire.

It is an eleven track album with all but one song written by the band themselves. There are a variety of Blues/Blues-based styles represented; making it an interesting collection indeed. Every track is a good’n for me, I must say. Whilst songs like ‘I Ain’t Sorry’ and ‘Tell Me A Riddle’ (with its excellent Greeny-esque guitar) are pretty much within tried and tested structures; ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Boatman’s Blues’ are compelling because I couldn’t predict where they were going. I also particularly liked the Latin inspired ‘Lonely By Your Side’ and the wonderfully upbeat ‘House On The Hill’. The album finishes with a great cover of Jimmy Cox’s ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’.

The CD comes in a jewel case with a nicely designed cover; with credits and thanks etc, but no lyrics or other info. (See the band’s website for more info). A bloody good album – its Blues with a difference. PTMQ

152. OKA VANGA “Dance Of The Copper Trail” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Image: Oka Vanga)

I was contacted by Hertfordshire based duo Will Cox and Angie Meyer of Oka Vanga just after Christmas, and they asked if I’d like to hear their new album Dance Of The Copper Trail. I’d heard good things about them, and I was keen to have a listen, so they kindly sent me a pre-release CD for review.

The album is a widely varied collection of eleven fine songs, mainly written by Angela. The title is ‘… a metaphor for survival, a musical allegory weaving together songs based on faith, superstition, love, loss, death and everlasting hope’.

From the opening number, there are several things that stand out and carry right through the entire collection: namely, Angela’s very distinctive vocals; some wonderful guitar work; and intelligently constructed songs that are innovatively arranged – with some fine work from guest musicians also contributing.

The whole album is superb; but I particularly liked the opener ‘The Wicken Tree’; the Angie-Will co-written instrumental ‘Don’t Let The Clouds Roll In’;  the Anne Bonnie inspired ‘The Devil’s Tide’; the haunting ‘Rose Of The Hill’; and the two covers in the collection, a very beautiful rendition of the ancient Irish folk song ‘She Moved Through The Fair’; and Sister Rosetta Tharp’s Bluesy ‘This Train’.

The album comes in a nicely designed card gate-fold cover; which incudes a booklet with plenty of info on each song – something I always appreciate. It is officially released on 31st March 2017. Highly recommended. PTMQ

Oka Vanga’s website

145. DARIA KULESH “Long Lost Home” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Pic: Daria Kulesh)

(Pic: Daria Kulesh)

Its always nice receive new music from my friend Russian singer/song-writer Daria Kulesh – whether it be as part of the Folk Band Kara, of which she is a member, or in this case more of her remarkable solo work. I’d heard some of the new songs, as they have been part of her solo set for a while now (see my review #45), but I was keen to hear them all in their perfected studio-recorded form.

And so I gladly received Long Lost Home recently for review. I had been wondering how Daria could possibly follow up her marvellous debut album Eternal Child (see my review #35) with her second album; but whereas the debut was about her personal life-experiences, this new work is about the plight of her ancestors. It is essentially a twelve track self-penned concept album (I’ve always been partial to concept albums) – the theme in this case being songs inspired by stories from Daria’s ancestry in Ingushetia (a mountainous region in the south of Russia).

Every one of these beautiful songs has been lovingly teased from Daria’s very soul – and even from the very spirit of her forebears. Every one has a heart-felt story to tell; or a wrong to right. And they are delivered with a passion that only Daria can summon up. They are stories of family and local heroes – and enemies (Stalin comes in for some well-deserved derision). And I have learned a lot from them – musically and historically.

From the haunting opening song ‘Tamara’, we are transported to an exotic place – both geographically, musically and lyrically. The effect of this is quite intoxicating and intriguing, I found. All the songs in this collection are exceptional. I very much liked ‘Safely Wed’ and ‘The Hazel Tree’; but the song I particularly warmed to was ‘The Panther’. This is the true story of local heroine Tangieva, who defied Stalin for the sake of her people. Daria impressively tells of ‘The Panther’ in this song; haughtily singing ‘An Amazon doesn’t serve in an army of slaves’!

The CD comes in a card tri-fold sleeve, with disc fitted one side and lyric booklet on the other – all very well designed and presented, with striking photos of Daria’s ancestral homeland. The booklet has lyrics and of course (typically thoughtful of Daria), plenty of very useful background information on each of the tracks so that the listener can reap as much as possible from the songs.

The album will be officially launched on 23rd February 2017 at Cecil Sharp House, Camden, London, where Daria will be accompanied by several other fine musicians such as Jonny Dyer, and members of Kara too – who have contributed so well to the album. It will of course be available to buy at the gig, or from Daria’s website. PTMQ

144. DENNIS HOMES “Sunset To Song Rise” (2017)

(Pic: Dennis Homes)

(Pic: Dennis Homes)

I ran into singer/guitarist/song-writer Dennis Homes at a gig last year (See my review #101); and he told me that he was working on a new album, which I said I’d be interested to hear; so recently he sent me a CD copy for review.

Dennis was of course once a member of late ’60’s psychedelic folkie band Synanthesia, whose eponymous album is apparently much sought after by vinyl collectors these days. Since then he has been writing and performing his own material.

Over the last few months I’d bumped into Dennis a few times at Folk/acoustic clubs, and seen him play a couple of songs from his new collection; namely ‘A Battered Old Guitar’ and ‘Bunjies, Cousins And Troubadour’. I liked them, so I was glad to get hold of the recorded versions.

Its a ten track collection of songs all penned by Dennis himself. There’s quite a variety of genres/styles embraced in the album, with influences from Folk to Rock’n’Roll; from Country to stage shows/musicals. One thing that is consistent throughout though, are the thoughtful song arrangements and the high quality of the clearly sung lyrics. It is obvious that Dennis has put a lot of time and effort into this collection.

I particularly liked the finished versions of the two songs that I’d already heard: ‘A Battered Old Guitar’ with its Duane Eddy-esque riffs; and Bunjies…’ which is of course about the three very influential London Folk clubs of the ’60s. I also liked the opener ‘Keep That Music Playing’ and the finale ‘The Night They Danced Under The Stars’ –  a wartime love story.

The CD comes in a smart card gate-fold case – the type with the disc pressed into the right-hand side. It has basic credits, photos and track list etc; but no lyrics or further info. I like the album because it is inventive and interesting, with great lyrics and fine arrangements. It is available from Dennis’ website, or Amazon. PTMQ

142. HUSKY TONES “Who Will I Turn To Now?” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Pic: HuskyTones)

(Pic: HuskyTones)

My readers may remember that a year ago I published a review of Husky Tones remarkable debut album Time For A Change (see review #89). Their second offering Who Will I Turn To Now? is about to be released, so the band kindly sent me a CD copy of the album for review.

The Bristol-based band are essentially a duet – Victoria Bourne (drums/vocals); and Chris Harper (guitar/vocals). They describe themselves as ‘Punk Blues’. This is an accurate description because whereas most Blues musicians would be content to move freely within the huge range offered by the genre, Husky Tones are keen on breaking into new ground completely. There are loose rules to Blues of course, but this band have just torn up the rule-book! Blues purists may hate it – but then Blues purists hate a lot of stuff! Its actually a very interesting collection of songs – musically, vocally and lyrically.

I listened to the first couple of songs and I was pleasantly surprised because they didn’t go where I thought they would; but after that I decided to listen outside the box and not to try to predict anything – just letting the sounds take me where the band wanted me to go. I then found the whole thing very compelling. It has a primal earthiness about it, redolent of both early Blues and Punk Rock – unusual bed-mates that strangely have united thanks to Victoria and Chris.

It is a ten track collection of songs all written by the couple themselves. There are some uncompromisingly good heavy guitar riffs present in many of the tracks, courtesy of Chris; and some haunting and unique vocals from Victoria. I particularly liked ‘The Island Of Barbed Wire’ which is about Victoria’s Great uncle being interned on the Isle Of Man during WW1; and ‘Jungle Blues’ – both with excellent acoustic guitar. I also liked the good rocker ‘I Worry About Nothing’; and the pensive ‘Put Your Arms Around Someone You Love’ with its beautiful guitar.

Lyrics are very good throughout, dealing with various topical historical, social, and political themes. This is refreshing subject matter for a Blues band to handle. So all kudos to the band for tackling these issues. More Blues bands should do this.

The CD comes in a smart card gate-fold sleeve, like a mini vinyl album with disc in one side and lyric booklet in the other. It includes credits, photos, and thanks etc; and was designed by Victoria herself. This collection is well worth getting hold of because I think its unique…. and it grows on you! The album will be released on 24th February. PTMQ

Husky Tones website

141. STARLITE CAMPBELL BAND “Blueberry Pie” (2017)

(Pic: Starlight Campbell Band)

(Pic: Starlight Campbell Band)

I was immediately interested when Suzy Starlite of Starlite Campbell Band contacted me asking if I’d like to receive a pre-release download of the band’s new album Blueberry Pie. Checking out the first tasty slice ‘Walkin’ Out The Door’, I was hooked and agreed to have a listen to the whole fruit-filled pastry, which she duly sent.

Starlite Campbell Band basically consist of Suzy Starlite (bass/vocals); and Simon Campbell (guitar/vocals). Together they wrote this album in just two weeks in 2016! It was recorded in Spain during the latter half of the year, and other hand-picked musicians were recruited for the sessions. These were: Danny Boy Sanchez (harp); Steve Gibson (drums); and Jonny Henderson (keys). Fine musos  all.

Together they have recorded a truly superb album that accurately picks up the vibe of the mid-late 60s British Blues scene. Yet this is no copy-cat rehash – it is as fresh and exciting as any new Blues, but with a serious salute to that older, highly influential, period. One of the best Blues albums that I’ve heard in a long time.

There are a variety of Bluesy styles present within the eleven track collection – mostly with a strong ’60s vibe. It is obvious that Starlite and Campbell have been immersing themselves in a serious amount of Blues! Each track is characterised by Suzy’s uncompromisingly steady and catchy bass lines; and Simon’s tasty guitar work with his Greeny inspired vocal style… and oh, that hypnotic Hammond just keeps everything floating through the decade! There are some excellent vocal harmonies present on some songs too. Arrangements are superb, and at all times it kept my interest. Lyrics are good too.

Its hard to pick a favourite track, but if I was pushed, I’d say either the opener ‘Walkin’ Out The Door’; or the obligatory slow moody number ‘Cry Over You’. Also, a pleasant surprise for me was the Suzy-sung ‘Guilty’, because it didn’t go where I thought it would go; and I love the instrumental ‘Shimmy’; and the mellow ‘Thrill You’. But every song in this collection is a winner for me for sure.

I haven’t got my hands on the CD yet so I can’t make any comment on the sleeve… other than to say that the photo of the old dear giving the V-sign reminds me a bit of the cover of Quo’s classic Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon – only ruder!

This album is more than just Blueberry Pie – its served with cream… and its hot! The download will be available from Bandcamp; and the CD will be released in February. Order a large slice ASAP. I am recommending it highly because I love it! PTMQ

Blueberrry Pie will be available from Supertone Records on 1st February 2017.

Starlite Campbell website